I can’t. I can’t do that. I can’t feel that. I can’t accomplish that project. I can’t pursue that passion. I can’t.
For years the words “I can’t” held a permanent place in my head — and really in my heart. I automatically assumed that I wasn’t capable of doing something.
I automatically assumed I wasn’t strong enough or smart enough or pretty enough or (fill in the blank) enough.
Many of us hold limiting beliefs about ourselves, beliefs that diminish us and prevent us from moving forward in our lives.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
We might think we can’t feel better. Or we can’t feel our feelings. Or we can’t create boundaries with our friends and family. Or we can’t find the time to care for ourselves.
But I think we can. I think we can, because we can change our perspective. We can shift our mindset.
Instead of rushing to say “I can’t,” consider if it’s even something you want in the first place.
That’s what I’ve started doing. I’ve started checking in with myself: Is this something I even want to do? Is this healthy? Is this beneficial for my well-being? Will I learn something new? Will I enjoy myself?
My “I can’t” thoughts still arise, at times. (And I’m sure there will be traces and hints of these thoughts in the future.) So I just do the above check-in after my brain spits out the “I can’t” thought.
If it is something that’s important to me, I go from “I can’t” to “I’d like to try” or “I’ll work on that” or “I’ll learn the necessary skills” or “Yes, actually, I can.”
Remember, this has nothing to do with failure, because the reality is that you might fail at the things you try. Everyone does.
(In fact, it’s a good thing. Take this quote from Herman Melville: “He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.” I like that. By the way, here are additional powerful quotes.)
Don’t limit yourself by saying you can’t do something. Don’t pull the plug on a project or activity or anything else before you’ve even started.
You can. Try it. And if you do “fail,” figure out what went wrong. Reconsider your definition of failure. Try something different.
Just give yourself the permission to try, to make mistakes, to learn, to connect.
Often, we just need to practice. We need to learn new skills or sharpen old ones.
You can learn healthy ways to feel your feelings. You can learn about building solid boundaries. You can practice strumming the guitar.
You can learn to reconnect to your body. You can learn to cook. You can practice riding a bike or hitting a tennis ball or hula-hooping.
Everything from self-compassion to resiliency to making art is a skill. Everything requires effort.
When “I can’t” thoughts dominate your brain, start small. Start with a smaller project. Start by setting a simple boundary. Start by identifying how you feel. Start by reading a book or taking a class.
Start by being open and curious.
When an “I can’t” thought arises, remember to sample a few replacements: I’d like to try. I’ll work on that. I’ll learn the necessary skills. Yes, actually, I can. And go from there.